disasters, modern problems, technology, transportation, travel

Get back on the bus, Russ?

This morning, I read an article in The New York Times indicating that many people have quit using trains and buses in cities around the world. Ridership has gone so low that there’s concern that public transportation systems will fail and there will be many related disasters. One of the biggest worries is that there will be a severe effect on the environment, since more people will be driving their own cars. I expect that with more people opting for private transport, there will also be bigger traffic jams and less available parking. However– I don’t think that consequence will happen unless life gets totally back to normal, if and when the pandemic ever ends.

As I read the article about how cities around the world are grappling with the low numbers of fare paying travelers and governments are having to bail out bus and train systems, I couldn’t help but shake my head in wonder. It seems like it would only be natural that people aren’t wanting to use public transportation right now. Here’s a list of reasons:

  1. Most of us have been instructed NOT to travel unless we must.
  2. Many people are working from home, which eliminates the need to commute (and is probably better for the environment, too). Where I live, most businesses are closed, so why would I go anywhere?
  3. Who wants to ride in close quarters with a bunch of strangers, some of whom aren’t practicing social distancing or wearing proper masks?
  4. Who wants to ride on a bus having a bunch of people watching your every move and giving you the stinkeye if you aren’t wearing a mask the way they think you should?
  5. Isn’t it nicer not having to smell other people’s farts or halitosis? How about vomit, urine, poop, smoke, or booze? Or not being smushed standing up on a bus while some yucky guy cops a feel? That happened to me more than once in Armenia, where the buses would be filled until people were literally almost hanging off of them.

To me, it makes perfect sense that fewer people are taking public transportation. I think there are a lot of reasons why they aren’t using it. Some people, who were once bus or train riders, have opted to buy a car. According to the article, used car sales are up, and so are their prices. But some people are walking or riding bikes instead of using public transportation. Isn’t that a good thing, both for their health and the environment? Riding a bike is pretty low impact in terms of causing air pollution. So is walking.

The article makes it sound like the world will end if people don’t get back on the bus. And, I guess, if everyone suddenly starts driving a car instead of getting back on the bus, there could be serious problems. Mass transit systems are valuable sources of employment; they cost money to maintain, and they provide an efficient way of moving people that eliminates the need for parking spaces or sitting in traffic jams. However, more people than ever are working from home. Quite a few folks find that they like working from home and their employers are discovering that working from home is a viable option. They have lower overhead, the employee can handle minor personal business, and there’s no need for a commute. That means the employee can potentially sleep a little longer in the morning and maybe doesn’t have to spend as much money on work clothes or gas.

I read some of the comments about this article. So many people were writing that they don’t want to ride public transportation because they are concerned about anti-maskers spreading diseases. But there are probably just as many people who find riding on public transportation with militant mask enforcers just as unpleasant. I would rather ride privately in a car to avoid both types of people– the ones who don’t comply with the rules and engage in racist tirades, and the ones who act like mask cops and pay their kids to publicly call out rule breakers.

I have repeatedly stated that I won’t be willingly flying or cruising anywhere until the pandemic is under control, and I don’t have to be forced to wear a mask for hours while sitting in a cramped seat, being surveilled by flight attendants and other passengers after I’ve also been groped by airport security and had my bags searched. That just doesn’t sound pleasant to me, even as I understand why masks are important. I simply don’t want to spend money on that experience. For that reason, we’ll drive if and when we can travel. Mrs. Merkel did decide not to do the “hard” lockdown for Easter, but as it stands right now, most places I would want to go to aren’t taking visitors anyway.

I think, ultimately, the answer to this problem is mass vaccination and changing the way we do things. It sucks, although I do think that some of the changes could turn out to be positive. The article in The New York Times predicts disaster if the public transportation systems fail. But if people stop traveling so much for work and leisure, it seems to me that there could be a positive effect on the climate. If more people are able to work from home instead of clogging up the roads every day at rush hour, that could mean less air and noise pollution and less wear and tear on the road systems. And if people refuse to get with the program and get back on the bus as it is now, then perhaps the systems will evolve so that they are more appealing for riders. Hell… maybe more car manufacturers and municipalities will embrace electric cars instead of gas fed ones. That would be good for the environment and reduce noise pollution somewhat.

One thing I have noticed since we moved to Wiesbaden and live close to two Autobahns is that I can really hear the traffic here– both from the massive roads and the flights coming in to Frankfurt. One thing our homes in BW had over our home here is that it was a lot quieter (at least when the landlady wasn’t yelling at me about something).

I did think this article in The New York Times was interesting reading. If you have access to the NYT, I do recommend reading it for a look at how public transit systems around the world are coping, as people have stopped moving around as much. I think the people working in that industry are going to have to come up with creative and cost effective ways to make the system more attractive to riders. And that will mean they might have to consider why people are opting not to ride the bus or the train and adapt as necessary.

I can state that when I lived in Yerevan, public transportation was not comfortable. Riders were expected to cram in as much as possible, and it was not pleasant or safe. Today, I would imagine those buses that used to be stuffed to the gills with passengers are not so much, thanks to COVID-19. But in the 90s, when there wasn’t a pandemic, I remember having my crotch and my breasts explored by someone’s hands as I was mashed up against a stranger who hadn’t bathed in awhile (due to a lack of running or hot water in those days).

Public transport in Germany, pre-pandemic, was generally not that extreme, but I do remember some really crowded rides on the U-Bahn or city trains in Stuttgart. I remember there not being enough seats and almost falling on my face as the trains moved, because I had to stand in the aisle. Believe me, I have had my fill of public transportation. It’s a necessity for cities to have it available, but honestly, if you can arrange your own transport, why wouldn’t you? At least you have a say in how you will ride without having to deal with other people’s bullshit or bad behavior.

Even flying is less attractive these days. I remember how, about five years ago, a young pilot on Germanwings (now Eurowings) decided to kill himself and everyone else on the plane because he was so depressed. He deliberately crashed the plane and killed 150 people. Given how deadly COVID-19 is as it’s begun to mutate, perhaps the odds are becoming riskier for public transport users. Maybe 150 people on a bus won’t die because of COVID-19 spread, but for those who get the illness, it could mean long term disability and a permanent change of lifestyle.

Incidentally, my comments on not wanting to spend money to ride planes, trains, buses, or cruises don’t mean that I’m an “anti-masker”, either. I do follow the rules. A person can agree with the necessity for wearing masks, yet still hate the goddamned things and do what they can to avoid having to wear them. My need to travel is not so great that I have to get with the program, but I understand that I write from a place of extreme privilege. I know most people don’t have the choices I have. My point is, nowadays, since there is a pandemic, one really does take his or her life in their hands when one uses public transportation. City transportation experts should probably consider that, and act and change accordingly.

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complaints, disasters, dogs

See you next fall…

Many years ago, when I worked at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, I had a friend who worked on the Rhine River cruise ride. He was a big, strapping guy who sweated profusely and carried his lunches in Igloo coolers. I knew this guy, not just because we worked in the “German” part of Busch Gardens, but also because we were both from Gloucester, Virginia. He was the eldest of a large Irish Catholic family. I think he had eleven brothers and sisters, but I can’t say for sure. ETA: A mutual friend says that Shawn is the eldest of fourteen.

Anyway, this guy, name of Shawn, used to get a huge kick out of me. One time I asked him why he was so amused by my comings and goings. He said it was because I was always hurting myself somehow. And because I could swear a blue streak that would make a sailor blush.

This morning, I’m not so proud to admit that I did both of those things. The sad thing is, this morning’s injuries come almost exactly a week after my last significant injury… significance being a relative thing. I’m not talking about broken bones or even sprains. I’m talking about scraped knees and sore muscles from breaking sudden falls.

Last week’s accident happened when I was about to walk the dogs. It was cloudy and a little rainy. I was preparing to walk the dogs when I decided to check the mailbox. Noyzi has been getting a lot braver lately, so he followed me outside. Suddenly, I had a flashback to about a year ago, when the beagle we tried to adopt escaped the pet taxi driver who had brought him to us. He panicked and took off, as we watched helplessly. Hours later, he ended up getting killed on the Autobahn, which is very close to our house. Watching our would-be family member run to his death was devastating. We had been so looking forward to having him, only to see him take off running before we even got to pet him.

Noyzi runs like a locomotive. I don’t think he wants to run away. He seems to enjoy being a pet. He has his own big bed, doesn’t have to fight over food, and loves to take walks. He also seems to like me a lot, although he’s still afraid of Bill. Still, I knew that if he got spooked, as he occasionally does sometimes, I might be shit out of luck in getting him back. He is really fast! I panicked a bit when he came outside. I made a grab for his collar, but missed. I fell down, having lost my balance, and made another grab for him, which I missed. He quickly hit the deck, peeing submissively in the process. I tore off part of a thumbnail and badly scraped my right knee. I also got a big bruise.

It hurt. Falling down is not as painless when you’re middle aged. I literally saw stars and felt nauseous after I fell. Like, I might have been in danger of fainting from the sharp pain. I yelled a bit, because I was pissed off, humiliated, and hurt.

Healing takes longer, too. That knee is already pretty badly scarred from other spills, including one that happened during the summer of 1991, when I was working at Busch Gardens. That was by far the worst knee scrape I’ve ever had. I had just finished work and was taking my till to the cash control office when I slipped on the pebbly walkway. Because it was dark outside and had just rained, I didn’t realize how badly I was hurt until I went into cash control and handed over the till. I looked down and saw blood streaming from my knee. I asked the teller if she had any paper towels. She got a load of my knee and called the first aid office, who carted me off to the first aid station and patched me up. It took weeks for the wound to heal and I still have a deep scar.

So all last week, my knee has itched, bled, stung, and throbbed. My right thumbnail hurt like a motherfucker, since I broke the nail at the quick. As of today, it doesn’t hurt anymore, since the nail has grown. I’d say that injury, at least, is about recovered. But then I renewed my clutzy woes this morning.

Arran woke up at about 4:30am. He wanted his breakfast, since I didn’t have much of a dinner last night and he got few scraps. I got up, let him and Noyzi out, and fed them. Then I went back upstairs, but noticed that Arran hadn’t followed me. I know this trick. Arran will often stay behind and stealth pee if I don’t watch him. Not wanting to clean up an unnecessary mess, I went back downstairs to get Arran. Somehow, I tripped on a shoe. I remember feeling horrified as my ankle wobbled and I went down on my nice rug.

Mrs. Fletcher and I have something in common.

“FUCK!” I screamed. For the second time in a week, Arran was looking at me with a mixture of concern and fear. The expression on his face was like, “oh dear… she’s fallen and can’t get up!”

Yes, I literally screamed and wailed, in part because I was hurting, but also because I’m angry and frustrated. Because now, not only did I reopen the wound on my right knee and undo a week’s healing, but I also now have a scraped left knee and my left big toe is fucked up. This time the scrape is on the top part of the knee. It’s more of a rug burn, so I don’t think the flesh wound will take as long to recover. However, I also have a big bruise on top of the knee, and walking hurts. Add in the normal pain and stiffness I experience just for being old and fat, and you have someone whose Monday has gotten off completely wrong!

The kicker is, I’m supposed to drive somewhere today. It’s literally been months since I last drove anywhere. Like, it’s been so long, I don’t remember when I was last behind the wheel. It might have been in 2019, it was so long ago. And I have to drive the Volvo, because my car’s tires are low on air and even if I wanted to drive on low tires, I’d need to move Bill’s car anyway. Bill has been trying to find a working air pump at a gas station, but for some reason, the Wiesbaden area is low on functioning air pumps. We’ll probably end up ordering one.

Fortunately, the Volvo practically drives itself, and I only need to go about two or three kilometers. But the reason I have to drive is because I need to drop off a sample of Arran’s shit at the vet’s office. That just seems like a perfect Monday morning chore, doesn’t it? I still need to collect one sample before I go, too… and I’m not sure I can manage our usual walk today. My left knee really hurts. But the sun is out, and the dogs need the exercise. I need it too, but maybe only after I put on knee pads and elbow guards. Shawn would be so proud to see that nothing has changed since the 1990s, except now I’m older, heavier, and even more profane.

I haven’t even had an alcoholic drink since Saturday afternoon, so I can’t even blame this on being drunk. At least I finally finished binge watching Growing Pains.

You’d think I played rugby.
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disasters

Is it me, or does it seem like Noah’s Ark these days?

Today’s featured photo is a screenshot of a public domain photo of “Noah’s Ark”, painted by the American folk painter Edward Hicks in 1846.

Maybe this is a simplistic thought. I probably ought to flesh it out some more before I write about this subject, especially since I am no Biblical scholar. What I remember about the Noah’s Ark story is that God decided there was too much violence and awfulness in the world and he was going to destroy it with a great flood. But he liked Noah, so he decided to spare him, his family, and all of the world’s animals. He had Noah build an Ark to his specifications.

Noah and his family, as well as pairs of animals and their mates, all boarded the great Ark and were saved from the great flood that destroyed everything else. After 150 days, the floods stopped and Noah, his family, and the animals all came to land on Mount Ararat… special to me, because it’s in what was once Armenia and is now Turkey. There’s more to the story, of course, and if you’d like a pop version of it, just listen to “Rock Steady” by Sting.

I’ve always liked this song. Clever songwriting by Sting.

As I sit here reading the news about Hurricane Laura about to make landfall in the United States, as people are grappling with COVID-19, wildfires in California, watching Trump’s insanity at the Republican National Convention, and worrying about joblessness, potential evictions, racially motivated riots, and no school for kids, I’m reminded of the Noah’s Ark story. It’s almost like everything is being thrown at us to see what sticks.

I don’t know if there is a God, or if God has anything to do with the disasters that have occurred in 2020 so far, but it sure does seem like hellfire is about to rain down. But then, I’m probably thinking this because I was born in a relatively peaceful and prosperous time in history. Yes, the Vietnam War was going on when I came around in 1972, but after that, it didn’t seem so bad. Or maybe I was just shielded from the news better. That’s probably it.

I don’t remember any other leaders as horrible and toxic as Trump has been… I truly do fear for what may come if voters don’t get their shit together in November. I also don’t remember the weather being nearly as weird and destructive thirty or forty years ago, and although I did live through the AIDS epidemic, that wasn’t a disease that spread through the air like COVID-19 does.

So far, we’ve been fortunate enough to live in areas that haven’t been horribly affected by most of the disasters that are hitting the world right now. I’m not arrogant enough to think that God likes us. I think we’ve just been really lucky so far. Even as I write this, I hear the winds outside whistling. I think the weather is about to change in Germany, too.

Growing up in Virginia and living a significant portion of my life in the southeastern United States, I have experienced my fill of hurricanes. So far, I’ve always managed to be in places that haven’t been badly hit. Even in April 2011, when a tornado ripped through Sanford, North Carolina (where we lived at the time), and then traveled 200 miles northeast, hit my hometown of Gloucester, Virginia, and destroyed where I went to “intermediate” school, we were not horribly affected. We saw the tornado and heard it, but it didn’t damage the home we lived in at the time. However, it did strike the Lowe’s hardware store and decimated homes about a quarter of a mile away.

On my old blog, I wrote about how a little girl in Gloucester’s life might have actually been saved by that tornado. She was badly abused and neglected by her parents, who had two other children, one who was a healthy baby and the other who had died and was buried on their property. The little girl was probably days from death herself, but her parents had taken the opportunity to loot when the tornado destroyed homes. They had tried to pawn a gold bullion they stole, and a police officer came to their trailer to speak to them. He saw the little girl, emaciated, covered in feces, and sitting under an upturned crib that had been fashioned into a makeshift jail cell.

The little girl, aged six, was extremely malnourished and small for her age. She was saved and eventually adopted, although she may not ever fully recover from her ordeal. Her parents are now in prison. I guess that’s one more example of how good things can happen even in the worst situations. I’m sure there are similar stories coming out of today’s disasters…

I guess I have to repost that blog entry about the little girl now. It was a good one. Anyway, stay safe out there in this era of disasters. I’d like to hope there isn’t going to be a great flood that wipes out civilization, but we certainly do seem to be living in “interesting” times.

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disasters

Onward to Switzerland… seven courses of weirdness

I think I’m at the point I always get to when I’m on a long break. It’s about time to go home. Today, we’re going to head to Switzerland for a couple of days, on our way back to Germany. I look forward to the next hotel. I think it’s going to be very different than the one we’ve been in all week. For one thing, kids under sixteen are not allowed to stay at the hotel from June to December. That’s because it’s affiliated with a clinic that provides healthcare, particularly to the elderly. So, I expect it will be quiet, which will be a nice change.

We are also not planning to do half board, which means no more menus from hell. Tuesday night’s menu of mushrooms was pretty horrifying for me, but at least it didn’t make me hurl. Unfortunately, last night’s seven course tasting menu did. Yes, I did drink alcohol last night, too. But that was not what made me puke. It was the earthy flavors. I have mentioned before how much I dislike mushrooms. Well, that includes flavors that are mushroom like… even if they aren’t actually caused by mushrooms. I don’t like earthy stuff at all.

So, after doing my best to try all of the courses last night, which ranged with items from cauliflower to the exotic Jerusalem artichoke with grapes, I was then confronted with veal, with asparagus and some kind of sauce. I don’t typically eat veal. I can eat it, but I don’t often choose to. I like asparagus. I think it was the sauce that did it. I tried to eat some asparagus and immediately started retching. The asparagus tasted a bit mushy, which reminded me of canned asparagus, and paired with the sauce, it made my stomach turn. I never even had a chance to try the veal. I had to spit out the asparagus, which was embarrassing, because people probably noticed.

Then I started getting the telltale stomach pains that come from feeling like puking. I got up to go to the ladies room. I had just come back from there, right before the veal course, only that time it was because I needed to pee. This time, it was because I was sure I was about to lose my dinner. I breathed a sigh of relief when I did manage to calm down my stomach, even as I was annoyed that the motion sensitive light in the restroom kept turning off on me before I was finished doing my business.

I went back to the table and tried the dessert, which was mostly raspberries, sorbet, and foamy cake, with some kind of green plant garnish that tasted weirdly like garlic to me. But I triumphantly powered through that last course… I thought I was going to be okay. And then we went back to the room, where I started doing my nightly routine. I brushed my teeth. Then I started to cough and immediately felt the familiar stomach pains. That was when everything came up. I had two relatively polite hurls, then one super powered deluge, which necessitated an extra shower and a quick wiping down of surfaces surrounding the toilet. Then it took about two hours for everyone drinking on the patio to finish up and go to bed.

I have enjoyed Italy. I always do. We’ve had a great time here. But it’s time to go home… and I look forward to beautiful but dull Switzerland in a quiet health spa hotel for two nights. Then, I look forward to seeing our sweet Arran again, washing my clothes, and doing lots of writing. This getaway has definitely been memorable, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that half board isn’t a great choice for me. Neither are tasting menus with exotic ingredients, or places that are super kid friendly.

I think I need to get back to good, old-fashioned, crappy American food.

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Trump

Cowering in the basement with the lights turned off…

That was our “president” yesterday. While the country falls apart with riots, protests, and looting, our moronic POTUS is still tweeting his nonsense and failing to do his job. Last night, former President Barack Obama stepped up to the plate with words of leadership and wisdom. I have noticed that both Mr. Obama and former President George W. Bush have both stepped up lately to offer words of comfort. Meanwhile, Trump threatened the masses with military action and staged a photo op in front of a boarded up church while holding up a Bible.

The church in question, St. John’s– the so-called church of the Presidents because every one since James Madison has gone to services there– had been briefly set on fire. Trump had nothing of substance, decency, or comfort to say to the many people who are hurting and scared right now. Instead, he told governors that they were “weak” and need to dominate and arrest the protesters, or else look like “jerks”. This is the same idiot who, a few weeks ago, encouraged citizens to rise up against their governors who ordered them to stay home due to the coronavirus. And he was tweeting about how “weak” the governors are from his fucking basement.

Yes. Yes he did. And yes, that came from the one and only Michael McDonald, former Doobie Brother and musician extraordinaire.

One of my witty friends quipped that the Bible Trump was holding was probably a fake one with a hollowed out center for a Big Mac. I suspect Trump hasn’t got the foggiest idea what is in the Bible or what it stands for, but it makes for a noteworthy prop, I guess. He didn’t pray or mention George Floyd. Instead, he went for his obvious base, evangelical Christians who accept him because he “claims” to be a Christian who is against abortion. He held up a Bible while peaceful protesters were dispersed with tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets. Meanwhile, a visiting priest who was trying to help frightened protesters leave the area was sprayed with tear gas.

Apropos…

The lights at the White House were turned off last night. I thought it was oddly appropriate. No one is home. No one is leading the country. Trump is acting like a dictator, yet he’s cowering in the nation’s most popular residence and threatening people with the military. Thank God Bill is retired. I would hate for him to have to deal with this shit.

I woke up at 3:30am this morning. I couldn’t sleep. I made the mistake of looking at Facebook and saw everything that happened last night after I went to bed. It’s absolute madness. I’m not much for prayer, but I might break down and offer one today for all of those who are on the front lines of this mess. Donald Trump has no empathy. He has no leadership ability. And he has NO BUSINESS leading the country. It’s time for him to leave office. He won’t, of course. He’s going to be dragged kicking and screaming from the White House, a place he once referred to as “a real dump“.

Speaking of dumps…

This is being offered for sale by the German super store, Real. We used to shop there all the time when we lived in Jettingen. How sad is it that our leader is so disgraceful that I can buy toilet paper with his visage on it from a German retailer? I wouldn’t want Trump’s likeness near my genitals, nor do I want to spend 2,95 euros on this… but still, it’s pretty sad that he’s so shitty that the Germans let you wipe your shit with a likeness of his face.

Anyway… I don’t know what today will bring. Probably more shock and dismay. I’m going to go practice my guitar now. At least I’m making progress with that.

Too bad John McCain wasn’t elected president before he died. He would have been so much better than Trump is…

I really hope more people wake the fuck up and join our demands that we get rid of this orange asshole stinking up the country. He’s a disgrace.

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